Estonia will be a founder member and active partner of the newly established International Religious Freedom Alliance, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu said on Thursday.
Initiated by the United States, the International Religious Freedom Alliance was established in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday evening.
Reinsalu said Estonia sees the new alliance as an opportunity based on shared values to advance the protection of human rights as a whole.
"Freedom of religion concerns the protection of human rights, and goes hand in hand with the freedom of thought and expression. As a rule, wherever the freedom of religion and belief is protected, other freedoms are also safeguarded. Unfortunately, four-fifths of the world's population live in countries where religious freedom is restricted," Reinsalu said.
He added the protection of human dignity and human rights was an important topic for Estonia in the UN Security Council. The discussions at the constituent meeting in the U.S. Department of State included the future activities of the alliance, organising events, including the civil society and imposing sanctions on those who violate the freedom of religion. A high-level meeting of ministers of the alliance will be held in Poland this summer.
Undersecretary for Political Affairs Paul Teesalu, who is also the Estonian Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom, said: "These kinds of alliances are an important tool that enable Estonia and other like-minded countries to contribute to specific activities in a substantial way, including under the UN. It also complements actions within the European Union and bilaterally."
More than 20 states participate in the alliance as founders, and in addition to Estonia, other founding members from the European Union include Austria, Croatia, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary. The United Kingdom will also join the alliance. Last year, Estonia also joined the Media Freedom Coalition launched by the United Kingdom and includes nearly 30 states.
On Friday, Reinsalu will attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. where President Donald Trump will give a speech. The Foreign Minister will also meet with Bill Keating, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Editor: Helen Wright